The Danger of Relics
JESUS said that God is Spirit, and that those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24). This means that we worship and serve a God whom we cannot see with our eyes, but must believe with our hearts. As a result, God is a bit of an abstraction for some people. One way that they have tried to make Him more real and present is through artifacts that they have associated with Him.
As understandable as the veneration of relics may be, it is a dangerous practice. It can easily tempt people to worship the object rather than the God whom the object is supposed to point to. In essence, the relic becomes a focus of idolatry.
That happened with a number of items that the Israelites venerated, including the bronze snake that Moses had made during the Exodus journey (2 Kings 18:4; Numbers 21:8-9). Originally, the serpent on the pole served as a means of healing for snake-bitten people, by causing them to look to the Lord for help. But after the people settled in the Promised Land, they apparently turned this standard into an idol, as if the bronze snake itself had power to heal. They burned incense to it and even gave it a name, Nehushtan.
In a similar way, the Israelites turned a ceremonial robe, or ephod, that Gideon made from the spoils of his victory over the Midianites, into an idol (Judges 8:25–27). Later they tried to use the ark of covenant as a charm against the Philistines, with disastrous results. And in Jeremiah’s day, the citizens of Jerusalem cared more about their temple than they did about the Lord of the temple (Jeremiah 7:12–15).
These examples show the dangers of making too much of objects and places that have had a close association with the work of God. As human beings, we live in the natural world, but we worship a supernatural God. Therefore, we need to treat shrines and relics merely as means toward that end, never as ends in themselves.